Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What didn't stay in Mardin

After pointing out the wall crypts, the sun-worshipers' chamber, and the "angel" carvings, the two boys who had appointed themselves our tour guides to the necropolis complex in the ancient Roman city of Dara wrapped up their patter: "Bitti. Başka kalmadı." That's it. The rest didn't stay. Now how about some lira?

Kids seemed to be on the hustle everywhere we went in the Southeast, whether waiting outside each of Dara's sites to follow us through the ruins or tailing us down Diyarbakır's back streets calling out, "Hello, hello, money, money!" It seemed especially pronounced due to the notable lack of adult "buyuruncus," the where-are-you-from-would-you-like-buy-a-carpet-I-have-very-nice-terrace bane of my every trip to Sultanahmet. Perhaps the most persistent was the boy who cornered us outside the Kırklar Kilisesi in Mardin, insisting that we come try some "very nice" wine. ("How would you know?" we asked, seeing as he was all of about 8 years old. He didn't seem to get the joke.) Having been warned about the unfortunately poor quality of this ev şarapı, we still decided -- correctly -- that a family of Christians who make wine in their house were worth meeting.

After begging off buying a bottle with many gracious teşekkür ederiz and empty promises to return after we finished our walking around for the day, we dined at possibly the only real restaurant in town, the much-recommended Cercis Murat Konağı, where the waiters only sniffed slightly at a pair of grubby backpackers settling into a table in an old Mardin mansion with a spectacular view across the desert toward Syria. The house wine there was amazingly good (keep in mind, our standards are low after so much time in Turkey) and the food tasty and different as promised -- what we could get of it, that is. For whatever reason, a good two-thirds of the items on the long, mouth-watering menu were "yok." (Unavailable.) We joked that at least they weren't "kalmadı," to our (North) American ears a strangely passive way of saying "we ran out of that." And then, yep, one of the main dishes we ordered... kalmadı.

We lingered as long as we could at dinner, trying to avoid going back to our ghetto hotel, with its windowless room and dirty squat toilet. Fortunately, a diversion presented itself on the walk back, a musical performance in the town's central çay bahçesi (tea garden). The over-sexualized 8-year-old belly dancer was of course a highlight, but most memorable was the guy who walked up to the stage at (presumably) key moments in the music and threw stacks of napkins into the air above the band members' heads, letting the paper pile up like snowdrifts.

I suspect if anyone tried to buy napkins the next morning at any of the neighborhood stores, they would find that they had... kalmadı.

5 comments:

Matt said...

LOL, great kicker...

TurkeyinPhotos said...

Mardin is lovely...
Mardin Travel Guide

sultanahmet said...

Great city is so lovely

Nomad said...

We stayed in the same hotel years ago. That view was tremendous wasn't it? Except my British friend discovered that the hotel didn't have the right permit to serve alcohol and she nearly had a stroke. Mardin was one of the only places out east that I would consider going back to visit.

Jen said...

I don't know where you stayed, @Nomad, we were at the cheapest place in town, with paint over the windows! Anything to save money for some eats and drinks.

Personally, I loved every place I've been to in the southeast - Gaziantep, Mardin, Urfa, Diyarbakir... Dying to go back to all of them and to see more.